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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Five Years Ago, Conservatives Were Okay with Cancelling the State of the Union

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.  In response to the shutdown, Speaker Pelosi suggested postponing the State of the Union, or having POTUS deliver it in writing.  Trump supporters denounced her statement. But a few years ago, some conservatives suggested the same thing.

On November 20, 2014, Joel Pollak wrote at Breitbart:
Congressional Republicans are searching for ways–short of impeachment or shutting down the government–to respond to President Barack Obama’s seizure of arbitrary power over immigration law and enforcement. One way would be to cancel the State of the Union address next year, so that the elected representatives of the people do not have to listen to, or applaud, a man who is violating his oath of office and governing as a tyrant.
On November 21, 2014, Ace of Spades blogged:
Yesterday we saw a number of ideas floated about how to respond....rescission, lawsuits, de-fundingand withholding votes on nominees to name a few on the table. There's one idea I'd like to add that is in many ways symbolic but that would focus the nation on the seriousness of this problem, do not invite Obama to address a joint session of Congress to deliver the State of the Union address.
The Constitution simply requires that "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Nothing requires that he do so in person. The modern in person State of The Union dates back to Woodrow Wilson but Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon all gave written reports as was the custom from Thomas Jefferson to Wilson.
And Presidents don't simply show up whenever they please to address the Congress, they must be formally invited. That's where Boehner and McConnell can strike a blow for the legislature...simply don't invite him.
On November 25, 2014, Jeremy Peters reported at NYT:
“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”
Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’ ”

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Mueller Office Replies to Buzzfeed


Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian at WP:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.
The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Obsruction?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier at Buzzfeed:
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
But Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.


From the first article of impeachment against Nixon:
In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his consitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:
On June 17, 1972, and prior thereto, agents of the Committee for the Re-election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence. Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.
The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:
making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tax Fraud Timeline

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal In a landmark article last year, NYT revealed that much of Trump's fortune rests on tax fraud.

Accountant Ken Boyd sums it up at Tax Fraud By The Numbers: The Trump Timeline

Trump Tax Fraud Timeline

Trump Impact: A Lump of Coal

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and key indicators are breaking bad.

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.

The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.
...
 Mr. Hassett said on Tuesday that the administration now calculates that the shutdown reduces quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week that it lasts — the cumulative effect of lost work from contractors and furloughed federal employees who are not getting paid and who are investing and spending less as a result. That means that the economy has already lost nearly half a percentage point of growth from the four-week shutdown. (Last year, economic growth for the first quarter totaled 2.2 percent.)

 More U.S. coal-fired power plants were shut in President Donald Trump’s first two years than were retired in the whole of Barack Obama’s first term, despite the Republican’s efforts to prop up the industry to keep a campaign promise to coal-mining states.
In total, more than 23,400 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation were shut in 2017-2018 versus 14,900 MW in 2009-2012, according to data from Reuters and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Trump has tried to roll back rules on climate change and the environment adopted during the Obama administration to fulfill pledges to voters in states like West Virginia and Wyoming.
But the second highest year for coal shutdowns was in Trump’s second year, 2018, at around 14,500 megawatts, following a peak at about 17,700 megawatts in 2015 under Obama.
One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.
The number of U.S. coal plants has continued to decline every year since coal capacity peaked at just over 317,400 MW in 2011, and is expected to keep falling as consumers demand power from cleaner and less expensive sources of energy.
Stephen Gandel at Bloomberg:
President Donald Trump and the Republicans’ tax cut is proving to be vastly more generous for corporate America, and vastly more expensive for taxpayers, than expected. Worse, the Trump Slump is erasing the bump the stock market received from the tax cuts. And evidence is mounting that the promised economic boost isn’t materializing. The administration’s signature political achievement is being eclipsed by disarray over trade, immigration and a government shutdown.

First, the headline number: $600 billion, at least. That’s how much more than expected I estimate the companies in the S&P 500 are on pace to save. It is also how much more the tax cut is likely to add to the national debt if it runs as planned for 10 years. The total savings for all of corporate America will be well into the 13 figures.

In late 2017, soon before Congress passed the tax cut — which reduced the U.S. corporate rate to a flat 21 percent from a previous marginal rate that topped out at 35 percent — the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated it would cost $1.4 trillion over 10 years. White House officials criticized that estimate as being too high. In fact, it wasn’t nearly high enough. My current estimate, now that companies have completed 2018, is nearly $2 trillion, and that’s just for the S&P 500. That’s nearly $400 billion more than I calculated in May. And the actual bill could rise even more while the lasting benefits are still pretty questionable.

Shutdown and the Base


 Grace Sparks, at CNN:
During the longest government shutdown in US history, President Donald Trump has been losing support among those who may be his strongest supporters -- white Americans who don't have college degrees.

Among this group, only 45% said they approved of the job Trump is doing as President, according to a recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That is the lowest level of support among this subgroup by 1 percentage point in CNN's surveys and a dip from a poll conducted in early December, before the partial shutdown, when 54% of whites without college degrees approved of his job as President and 39% disapproved.
The dip is notable since among whites who hold college degrees, Trump's ratings are largely unchanged in the last month and remain sharply negative -- 64% disapprove and 32% approve.
This trend is backed up by a new Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday. Approval for the President remained somewhat stable between its mid-December poll and now among whites without college degrees (down from 56% to 53%), but disapproval increased from 37% to 43%. That is going from a net 19% positive approval to a net 10% for Trump, a 9-point loss.
Domenico Montanaro at NPR:
A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds Trump's approval rating down and his disapproval rating up from a month ago. He currently stands at 39 percent approve, 53 disapprove — a 7-point net change from December when his rating was 42 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove.

And the movement has come from within key portions of his base. He is:
  • Down significantly among suburban men, a net-positive approval rating of 51-to-39 percent to a net-negative of 42 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove. That's a net change of down 18 percentage points;
  • Down a net of 13 points among white evangelicals, from 73-to-17 percent approve to 66-to-23 percent approve;
  • Down a net of 10 points among Republicans, from 90-to-7 percent approve to 83-to-10 percent;
  • Down marginally among white men without a college degree, from 56-to-34 percent approve to 50-to-35 percent approve, a net change downward of 7 points.

Giuliani Admits Possible Campaign Collusion

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Caroline Kelly at CNN:
Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he never denied President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, only that the President himself was not involved in collusion.
In an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on "Cuomo Prime Time," Giuliani, a former New York mayor and Trump's attorney, said he doesn't know if other people in the campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were working with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential race.
"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign," Giuliani said.
He added, "I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC."

It's another remarkable statement from Giuliani, given that the President and his supporters have repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. A person familiar with the matter told CNN last week that Manafort, while serving as Trump's campaign chairman, tried to send internal polling data from the Trump campaign with two Kremlin-supporting Ukrainian oligarchs through
At WP, Aaron Blake lists the evolving non-denial denials. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Collusion Update: NATO

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Julian E. Barnes and Helene Cooper at NYT:
There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.
Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States.
Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.
At a July 12 NATO meeting,   NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg surprised Trump.
Backing Mr. Trump’s position, Mr. Stoltenberg pushed allies to increase their spending and praised the United States for leading by example — including by increasing its military spending in Europe. At that, according to one official who was in the room, Mr. Trump whipped his head around and glared at American officials behind him, surprised by Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks and betraying ignorance of his administration’s own spending plans.
Mr. Trump appeared especially annoyed, officials in the meeting said, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and her country’s military spending of 1 percent of its gross domestic product.
By comparison, the United States’ military spending is about 4 percent of G.D.P., and Mr. Trump has railed against allies for not meeting the NATO spending goal of 2 percent of economic output. At the summit meeting, he surprised the leaders by demanding 4 percent — a move that would essentially put the goal out of reach for many alliance members. He also threatened that the United States would “go its own way” in 2019 if military spending from other NATO countries did not rise.
During the middle of a speech by Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump again broke protocol by getting up and leaving, sending ripples of shock across the room, according to American and European officials who were there. But before he left, the president walked behind Ms. Merkel and interrupted her speech to call her a great leader. Startled and relieved that Mr. Trump had not continued his berating of the leaders, the people in the room clapped.
Reagan foresaw the kinds of sentiments that Trump has been voicing. From a 12/7/88 speech to AEI:
 I'm troubled by something else as well. The 1980's have been the glory years of the NATO alliance. The Soviet deployment of intermediate-range missiles presented NATO with its greatest challenge since the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the alliance not only survived but was vindicated by the signing of the INF treaty in Washington 1 year ago tomorrow. The NATO alliance is the best example we have to show the less fortunate peoples of the world how freedom and democracy create friendship and comity between peoples and nations. But 40 years after the North Atlantic Treaty, there are still some who question the alliance. Thus we hear, just months after the destruction of the first intermediate-range missile, that somehow the United States is being mistreated by our friends and allies. The argument they use is that our allies are not sharing the burden of their own defense equitably.
I agree that our NATO allies could be sharing the burden better. But we must also solve our economic disputes more fairly. But we must always remember the very real burden our allies bear that we never will. We must remember our allies perform a role that geography has forced upon them. They are literally on the front lines for the West. Our fortunate geography has kept the wars of the 20th century well away from the American mainland, but in Europe the memory is as fresh as the memories of a 50-year-old and the tales of a grandfather. Their soldiers, their children, their homes, their civilization itself hang in the balance every day. We cannot, we must not, forget this. And we should not give in to the temptation to transmute a small difference in a historic relationship into a major disagreement that might end up damaging the greatest foreign policy success of the postwar era.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"First time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid..."

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's management style.

From Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant, US Coast Guard:
To the Men and Women of the United States Coast Guard,
Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that  servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.
Your senior leadership, including Secretary Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments.
I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf. To this end, I am encouraged to share that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) has received a $15 million donation from USAA to support our people in need. In partnership with CGMA, the American Red Cross will assist in the distribution of these funds to our military and civilian workforce requiring assistance.
I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women. It is a direct reflection of the American public’s sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country.
It is also not lost on me that our dedicated civilians are already adjusting to a missed paycheck—we are confronting this challenge together.
The strength of our Service has, and always will be, our people. You have proven time and again the ability to rise above adversity. Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.
Semper Paratus,
Admiral Karl L. Schultz
Commandant

Shutdown Update 1-15-19




View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

US President Trump serves fast food in the State Dining Room of the White House at a ceremony honoring the Clemson Tigers, College Football Playoffs National Champions.

The White House chefs are furloughed due to the government shutdown, Trump told the team






Eric Wolff at Politico:
The 24-day-old shutdown is hobbling enforcement efforts throughout the federal government — halting power plant and oil well inspections, slowing financial fraud probes and tax audits, thwarting plane crash investigations and even delaying a probe into Facebook's privacy practices.
Jeff Martin and David Koenig at AP:
The number of airport security screeners failing to show up for work around the country is soaring as the partial government shutdown goes into its fourth week.
No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday, when the Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 percent compared with 3.2 percent on a comparable day a year ago. Monday marked the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time since the shutdown began.
A Monday release from Quinnipiac University:
American voters support 63 - 30 percent a Democratic proposal to reopen parts of the government that do not involve border security while negotiating funding for the Wall, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group supports this idea except Republicans, who are opposed 52 - 39 percent.

...
President Trump's TV address to the nation last week was "mostly misleading," 49 percent of American voters say, while 32 percent say it was "mostly accurate."

Voters are divided on the response by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as 38 percent found it "mostly accurate" and 39 percent found it "mostly misleading."

American voters believed Pelosi/Schumer more than Trump 46 - 36 percent, including 48 - 33 percent among independent voters.

Only 2 percent of voters say the TV address changed their mind, while 89 percent say it did not change their mind aboutbuilding the Wall.
 
Jonathan Swan at Axios:
President Trump chastised his new chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, over his handling of shutdown talks, creating an awkward scene in front of congressional leaders of both parties, according to two sources who were present.
Behind the scenes: The encounter came near the end of a meeting in the White House Situation Room on Jan. 4, these sources said. Trump had spent the meeting restating his demand for $5.7 billion for his wall. (Vice President Pence, at Trump's behest, had previously asked the Democrats for just $2.5 billion.)
  • Mulvaney inserted himself into the conversation and tried to negotiate a compromise sum of money, according to the sources in the room. Mulvaney said "that if Dems weren't OK with $5.7 [billion] and the president wasn't OK with $1.3 [the Democratic offer] ... he was trying to say we should find a middle ground," one of the sources said, paraphrasing Mulvaney's remarks.
  • "Trump cut him off ... 'You just fucked it all up, Mick,'" the source recalled Trump saying. "It was kind of weird."
  • Another source who was in the room confirmed the account. That source said their impression was that Trump was irritated at Mulvaney's negotiating style. "As a negotiator, Trump was resetting," the source said. "Mick was not reading the room or the president."
After an election in which GOP was swept in the suburbs, new @CNN poll shows 63% of college+ whites oppose , 63% mostly blame Trump for shutdown & 64% disapprove of his job performance. A reminder that Trump's base-first politics, abetted by GOP, carries real costs



Monday, January 14, 2019

Collusion Update, 1/14/19

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Greg Miller at WP:
President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.
The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.
Tom Nichols at USA Today:
[T]he president’s attempts to hide the content of his conversations with Putin are not only abnormal but also deeply suspect. The intelligence community, members of Congress and the public should always be anxious whenever any American official talks to a top Russian leader and then tries to seize the notes. This kind of behavior violates practices of sensible diplomacy and intelligence analysis, and no one acts this way for innocent reasons.
Nor are conversations between the president and Putin merely some personal matter. Such discussions might in fact need to be confidential; sensitive diplomacy often requires a close hold on the informal back-and-forth between top leaders. But their content should be known at the very least to the administration’s own top intelligence and foreign policy advisers.
It’s one thing to hold back information for strategic reasons from the public or even the opposition party. All presidents have done that. It’s another to withhold information from your own advisers.

This is not normal, in any way. As things stand, more people in the Kremlin than in Washington know what Trump said to Putin. It is almost certain that there are readouts and analyses of Trump’s discussions with Putin — but that for now, they are in Russian.
 Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare:
Put simply, I don’t believe the FBI, having an open counterintelligence investigation, simply opened a new criminal investigation of obstruction in the wake of the Comey firing. I think there likely was—and still is—one umbrella investigation with a number of different threads. That one investigation was (and is) about Russia. And it had (and still has), as a subsidiary matter, a number of subsidiary files open about people on the U.S. side who had links to Russian government activity. Each of these files had (and still has) all of the counterintelligence and criminal tools available to the U.S. government at its disposal.
So when the president sought to impair the investigation, having declared both in the draft letter dismissing Comey and to Lester Holt that his action was connected in some way to the Russia investigation, that raised both potential criminal questions and major counterintelligence questions—questions that could only have been reinforced when Trump later announced to senior Russian government officials that he had relieved pressure on himself by acting as he did. It did so both because it threatened the investigation itself and because it fit directly into a pattern of interface between Trump campaign officials and Russian government actors that they were already investigating.
...
 It was about Russia. It was always about Russia. Full stop.
Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast:
The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the NRA and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by The Daily Beast tells a different story.
Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.
While there has been speculation that Torshin and his protege, Maria Butina, had the Kremlin’s blessing to woo the NRA—and federal prosecutors have vaguely asserted that she acted “on behalf of the Russian federation”—no one in the White House or the U.S. intelligence community has publicly stated as much. Senior Russian government officials, for their part, have strenuously distanced themselves from Butina’s courtship of the NRA, which she did at Torshin’s direction.
The report, on the other hand, notes that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was fine with Torshin’s courtship of the NRA because the relationships would be valuable if a Republican won the

“This reporting indicates that Alexander Torshin was working with the blessing of the Kremlin, at a minimum,” one European intelligence official told The Daily Beast. The official added that this reporting is consistent with his group’s understanding of how the Kremlin operates.
“The NRA is quite powerful, so when you look to influence U.S. politics, you should consider them as a convenient target,” the official added.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Shutdown Update: Boxed in a Canyon


Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker, and Seung Min Kim at WP:
In the weeks leading up to December’s deadline to fund the government, Trump was warned repeatedly about the dangers of a shutdown but still opted to proceed, according to officials with knowledge of the conversations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the president that he had no leverage and that, without a clear strategy, he would be “boxed in a canyon.” He tried to make the case to Trump that even if Pelosi and Schumer were interested in cutting a deal with him, they would be constrained from compromising because of internal Democratic Party pressures to oppose Trump’s wall, these officials said.
Then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) talked with Trump by phone for 45 minutes the day before the shutdown, warning that he saw no way to win as he paced in a Capitol hallway just outside a conference room where House Republicans were meeting. Then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned about the perils of a shutdown during the Christmas season.

Inside, some of the more hard-line members urged a showdown over border wall funding, arguing that Trump’s core supporters would revolt otherwise. But McCarthy asked, “Tell me what happens when we get into a shutdown? I want to know what our next move is.”
Jennifer Agiesta writes of a new CNN poll:
The public generally is more apt to blame the President, with 55% saying he is more responsible for the shutdown than are Democrats in Congress, while 32% say the blame rests mostly with the Democrats. Another 9% say both are responsible. Democrats are more unified in their blame for the President (89% blame Trump) than are the Republican rank-and-file in blaming the Democrats (65% of Republicans blame the Democrats in Congress, 23% blame Trump). Independents are more apt to blame Trump (48% to 34%), and are most likely to say both sides are responsible (14%).
RELATED: Full poll results
Sofi Sinozich writes of a new ABC poll:
Fifty-three percent in the national survey said that Trump and the GOP are mainly responsible for the shutdown, while 29 percent blamed congressional Democrats, nearly a 2-1 margin against the president and his party. Thirteen percent said both equally are at fault. (Slightly fewer, 48 percent, blamed Trump and his party during the brief partial shutdown a year ago.)
Responsibility is assigned largely along party lines. But while 85 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of liberals mainly blamed Trump and the GOP for the partial shutdown, fewer Republicans (68 percent) or conservatives (50 percent) mainly blamed the Democrats in Congress. A third of conservatives said Trump and the congressional Republicans are at fault.
See PDF for full results, charts, and tables.
On Friday, Domenic Montanbaro wrote of an NPR poll:
Three-quarters of Americans say the government shutdown, now tied for the longest in U.S. history, is "embarrassing for the country," including a majority of Republicans, a new NPR/Ipsos Poll finds.
If no deal is struck by midnight Friday, this partial shutdown will be the longest ever. From late 1995 to early 1996, the government was shut down for 21 days. Friday is the 21st day of this current shutdown. Neither side appears ready to budge, and this poll and others make Democrats feel they have the upper hand.

And they have reason to feel that way — about 7 in 10 in the NPR/Ipsos Poll also say the government shutdown is going to hurt the country, that it will hurt the economy and that Congress should pass a bill to reopen the government now while budget talks continue. Just 3 in 10 believe the government should remain closed until there is funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

More EPA Oppo

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss opposition research.
When Mother Jones first reported in December 2017 that the Environmental Protection Agency had hired a hyperpartisan GOP opposition research firm known for its aggressive tactics to handle the agency’s news-clipping work, the politically appointed flacks in the agency’s press office insisted the decision was about saving money and that the hiring had been handled through normal procurement channels. As we reported Thursday, we now know that was not the case. Internal emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that political appointees in the EPA press office demanded that career staff push through the hiring of Definers Public Affairs—best known for its work for Republican campaigns and recently for its role as Facebook’s attack dog on Capitol Hill, which included attempts to smear George Soros for his critiques of the social-media network.
Now, thanks to another batch of internal emails, we have even more evidence that the motivation for hiring Definers came from the top agency political appointees who were ticked off at the old service because it was collecting too many news clips that portrayed then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt negatively.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Collusion Update

In  Defying the Odds -- update coming out shortly -- we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.


 Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos at NYT:
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.
Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez at CNN::
Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who had paid Paul Manafort for years for his political work in their country, were the intended recipients of the American polling data that Manafort shared with Konstantin Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential campaign, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been circling Lyovochkin and Akhmetov's dealings with Manafort for a while, as they were both key, generous backers of Manafort's Ukrainian lobbying work, prosecutors said at Manafort's financial fraud trial last summer.
The Justice Department initially asked Mueller to look into the pro-Russian Ukrainians' ties to Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, because of how they may relate to other allegations of Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.
The sharing of the polling data with Kilimnik was revealed this week, despite being redacted in a court filing, due to a formatting error.
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai at Motherboard:
The lawyers involved in the case of tax fraud convict, lobbyist for dictators, and Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort started off the year on the wrong foot, and perhaps realized that yes, computers are hard.

On Tuesday, Manafort lawyers filed a response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team’s allegation that Manafort lied to prosecutors. On page five, either Manafort’s lawyers or the Department of Justice staffers attempted to redact a sensitive passage. Unfortunately, just by copying and pasting the redacted paragraph, it was possible to read the blacked-out parts and find out new details of Manafort’s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former associate with ties to Russia. Mistakes like these have happened before, even to Facebook’s lawyers.

From the Moscow Project of the Center for American Progress:
On January 6, 2017, the U.S. intelligence community issued a report that showed there were two campaigns to elect Donald Trump: one run by Trump and one run by the Russian government. Trump and many of his senior advisors and close associates have repeatedly denied any connections between the two campaigns, despite the fact that they were working towards the same goal, at the same time, and utilizing the same tactics.
Yet over the past year, we’ve learned about a series of meetings and contacts between individuals linked to the Russian government and Trump’s campaign and transition team.
In total, we have learned of 101 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives, including at least 28 meetings. And we know that at least 28 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisors were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.